Japan:A Closer Look at Kansai – Part 1

Feb 16th, 2009 | By | Category: Regional Travel Resources

Also known as Kinki or Kinai, the Kansai region of Japan includes the prefectures of Nara, Wakayama, Kyoto, Osaka, Mie, Hyogo & Shiga.  The region lies just south of the mid-point of Honshu, Japan’s main island, and spans the country from east to west with borders on both the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan.  Osaka and Kobe are the large cities of the region, both of which have deep roots in the merchant class due to their location on the Seto Inland Sea, one on Japan’s main ports.

Kyoto and Nara are home to many of the county’s historical and cultural treasures and were once home to Japan’s imperial family and capital city for over 1,000 years until until it moved to Tokyo in the late 1800’s.

Many visitors to Japan only manage to fit in a brief visit to the Kansai region on their itinerary and spend the majority of their time in Kanto (Tokyo/Yokohama area).  This is unfortunate as the region has a lot to offer visitors and is only 2.5 hours by shinkansen (bullet train) or a little over 1 hour in the air from Tokyo.

Our closer look at Kanto will be divided into three parts.  Part 1 will cover the prefectures of Shiga, Mie & Hyogo, Part 2 will examine Osaka and Wakayama and Kyoto and Nara will be explored in Part 3.

Mie Prefecture

Kimano Kodo Trail

Visit the Mikimoto Pearl Museum and see a demonstration of Ama Diving, an obsolete technique where women dove to collect the pearl filled oysters.

Take in the scenic beauty of the 48 watefalls of Akame (Map for Akame Shijyuhachitaki Water Falls)

Visit the Ise-jingu Shrine, one of Japan’s most revered shrines where the sun goddess Amaterasu O-mikami is enshrined.  Over seven million worshippers visit the shrine each year to take part in a variety of ceremonies that are held each month or visit one of the Ise-Jingu museums.  View the Ise-jingu anime to learn more about this shrine.

Make the pilgrimage along Kumano Kodo (pictured on the right), a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004.  Explore some of the Kumano Kodo hiking trails and visit the three grand shrines of Kumano (Kumano Sanzan).

Learn more about Ninjitsu, at the  Ninja Iga-ryu Muesum in Iga.  Also in Iga, see the Ueno Tenjin Matsuri or Festival of the Gods each fall.  See the Iga Sightseeing Map and historical information for more things to do and see in Iga.

Visit the picturesque rice paddies of Maruyama-senmaida.

To learn about more things to do and see in Mie Prefcture visit Japan National Tourist Organizations’s Mie page or the Mie Tourism Guide.

Shiga Prefecture

Hiezan Enryakuji at Night Take a journey to Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan

Visit Shiga Kogen, the largest Ski resort in Japan and host of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympic Giant Slalom.  Ski season runs from mid-to-late November and continues through the first week of May (Golden Week).  If skiing isn’t your thing, you can also play tennis, golf or explore Joshinetsu Kogen National Park.

Take the cable care or ropeway up Mt. Hiei to see the Buddhist monuments at Hiezan Enryakuji (pictured on the right).

Visit the ancient Seta-no-Karahashi in Osu City.  This bridge was strategic point for military purposes, transportation, and was frequently destroyed by war. The stunning view of the bridge at sunset has been memorialized by many Japanese artists and poets.

Visit Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, home to one of Japan’s Six Ancient Kilns and one of the oldest pottery producing areas in Japan.

Consider following one of the model tours of Shiga, browse Japan National Tourist Organizations’s Shiga information or the Shiga Tourism Site for more things to do and see in Shiga Prefecture.

Hyogo Prefecture

Arime Onsen Hot Spring Explore the capital city of Kobe – highlight include:

Take time to visit Himeji Castle, built in 1931, a national treasure, and also on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Explore the areas parks, museums and other attractions on a sightseeing bus or rent a bike (scroll down for details).

Explore Takarazuka and take in The Takarazuka Review, a famous Japanese theatre production where all roles are played by women.

Relax and take in the sights around Arima Onsen or Kinosaki Hot Spring.

Visit Awaji-shima, the largest island in the Seto Inland Sea and the third largest in Japan.

Browse Japan National Tourist Organizations’s Hyogo information or the Hyogo International Tourism Guide to learn about more things to do and see in Hyogo prefecture.

Odd Facts & Trivia

The Ise-jingu Shrine in Mie Prefecture has been rebuilt every 20 years for over 1,000 years in a ceremony called Shikinen Sengu.  In October, 2013 the shrine will be reconstructed for the 62nd time.

The Akashi Kaikyo Ohashi (Akashi Strait Grand Bridge) is the world’s longest suspension bridge,  at 3,910 meters and connects Awaji-shima Island with Kobe

Articles in the Japan: A Closer Look series:

Image Credit:  Flickr, IMG0026, 文殊桜 (Illuminated Hieizan Enryakuji) & Carbonated Hot Spring (Arima Onsen)

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  1. I loved Shiga Kogen in the snow. This is where I made my first attempt at snowboarding and I had a black and blue behind at the end of our 3 day stay – it was fab though :)

  2. Don’t forget the giant salamanders at Akame!
    http://www.schlaikjer.net/trips/japan/200710/index.htm

  3. […] Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) in Kyoto and Shiga prefectures […]

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